Eight Best Dumbbell Exercises for Your Glutes

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Eight Best Dumbbell Exercises for Your Glutes

In theory, we train our glutes all day by walking, taking stairs instead of elevators, and by moving as nature intended. We should squeeze those glorious butt cheeks one at a time all day long, even when trapped in a meeting, stuck at a desk, or snarled in traffic.

In reality, we ignore our glutes. Not only that, we deactivate them by sitting on them, a major problem in our sedentary culture of working in cubicles and camping out on couches. This tightens the hips, flexes our bodies forward, and contributes to a chain of muscle dysfunction and pain. It also leaves us with flat, unattractive rear ends.

Some world-class butts are the product of genetics, but most are the result of work in the gym. Studies suggest that training the glutes reduces back pain. It’s possible to open the hips and unflatten your ass through training.

In this dumbbell workout, we’ll work the glutes through four sets of these eight moves in a circuit fashion, resting only briefly between sets, to produce maximum results with minimal time and equipment.

Inverted Hamstring

What it does: This move forces you to fire (activate) your glutes. Practicing such movements becomes a habit in the gym and everyday life.

How to do it: While holding dumbbells, balance on your right foot, keeping tummy tight, and shoulders back and down. Bend at the waist with both hands out to the sides and extend your left leg back as you fire the left glute. Your shoulder and heel should move together, forming a straight line. Return to starting position and switch legs.

How many? 10 on each leg. 

Squat-to-Press, One-Arm Dumbbell

What it does: It challenges the glutes while also challenging your overall core stability.

How to do it: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, hold a dumbbell on one shoulder with that elbow pointed down. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push through the hips to stand and press the weight overhead. Lower the weight to starting position. Finish the set with one arm before switching arms.

How many? 10 on each side.

Lateral Lunges

What it does: Lateral movement is important to the motions of everyday life, but too often we ignore it in the gym. The lateral lunge hits the glutes, along with the quads and hamstrings.

How to do it: Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Step out to the right, keeping toes pointed straight ahead and feet flat. Squat down only your right leg, keeping the left leg straight. Squat as low as possible, keeping the left leg straight and holding for two seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat for a set of 10. Switch sides.

How many? 10 reps per side.

One-Legged Squats

What it does: This not only challenges your glutes – one at a time – but your overall balance and core strength.

How to do it: Stand on one foot holding dumbbells on your shoulders with elbows pointed out. Squat on one leg until your thighs are parallel to the ground – or as parallel as possible. Return to a standing position using only the leg you’re balancing upon. Do 10 on one side and then the other.

How many? 10 reps per side.

Weighted Glute Bridge

What it does: It’s one of the best moves to improve the activation patterns of the glutes. The dumbbells add a further strength challenge.

How to do it: Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent 90 degrees and feet on the floor. Hold dumbbells along each leg. Squeeze your glutes and bridge your hips to the ceiling. Only your shoulders and hips remain on the ground. Hold for two seconds and then lower your hips toward the ground without touching.

How many? 10 reps.

Reverse Lunges

What it does: It’s impossible to do this without actively firing your glutes.

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells. Keeping the eight mostly on the front foot, step back into a lunge. When the back knee is just off the ground, push through the front hip to a standing position. Repeat with the opposite leg.

How many? 10 on each side.

Split Squats

What it does: Squatting in the gym and daily life works the glutes, but the split version with dumbbells places them fully on stretch.

How to do it: Step out into a lunge with dumbbells at arm’s length at your sides. Lower your hips by squatting back and down. Without letting your back knee touch the floor, drive your weight back up with the front glute. Do 10 sets on one leg and then repeat with the other.

How many? 10 to each side.

Romanian Deadlift 

What it does: Perhaps the most recognizable hamstring move, and for good reason; it’s effective in building the proper activation patterns in your hamstrings and glutes while also strengthening your back.

How to do it: Start with a light set of dumbbells. Form is especially key to getting the full benefit from the RDL; don’t think of the exercise as bending forward but rather as sitting back with your torso moving forward instead of staying upright.

How many? 10 reps.

Pete Williams is a NASM-CPT and the author or co-author of several fitness books, including Core Performance and Every Day is Game Day. His work has appeared in multiple publications such as Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and USA Today.

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